Old water tower conversion brings challenges and rewards

This redundant water tower, near Harrogate, is set to feature on TVs Restoration Man. Sharon Dale had a sneak preview. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

The water tower has been transformed
The water tower has been transformed

Converting a derelict, 46ft water tower is a tall order for anyone but for Carol and Majid Nadry it holds an extra challenge. The couple have spent the last 30 years in a bungalow and are about to leave their single-storey home for a building with four flights of stairs.

The swap caused the only major disagreement during a project that would have tested most marriages. “Majid wanted a lift and I didn’t as I’m terrified of them. We had lots of arguments about it,” says Carol, who eventually relented. Taking a cup of tea from the kitchen on the ground floor to the room at the top would be a marathon fraught with disaster and then there are knees to think about.

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“We aren’t getting any younger and there are so many stairs, so I thought a lift was essential,” says Majid.

The elevator is a considerable added expense to a budget that has already soared way above the £300,000 initially set aside. By the time the tower is finished, it will have swallowed double that original estimate but the Nadrys don’t mind as there are so many compensations.

The tower, near Harrogate, looks set to be a stunning home with magnificent views. The journey from derelict building to des res has been captured by Channel 4s Restoration Man, which will reveal the highs and lows.

The story started when Carol and Majid saw a TV report on the tower, which was coming up for auction. Built in the 1940s, it supplied a nearby village with water before becoming redundant. Yorkshire Water’s sister company, Keyland Developments, got planning permission to turn it into a dwelling.

Bidding was intense and the hammer came down at £202,000, nearly double its guide price. The Nadrys’ daughters Roya, 21, Hannah, 25, and Nadia, 29, describe it as “dad’s mid-life crisis” while their parents see it as an adventure.

“We’ve renovated investment property and business premises before but we wanted to do something for ourselves, something unusual,” says Carol.

The Leeds-based couple have project managed while overseeing their children’s day nursery business. The first hurdle after taking possession two years ago was getting a right of way from the road to the tower, across land owned by Harrogate Council. Negotiations took a year and the price was higher than expected. Getting electricity to the site was also expensive. They were quoted £60,000 but managed to cut the costs by almost half by digging the trenches and putting in the ducting themselves.

The lowest point of the build came when they discovered that the metal water tank on top of the tower was unstable. It took 20 tons of steel to strengthen the structure, though it was a worthwhile investment as the tank is now a sensational sitting room topped with a part-glazed roof.

“We didn’t find out about that problem until quite late on. It was more expense and it put us back quite a bit,” says Carol.

There was another hold-up when the couple decided to apply for a rear extension to house a garage, office and hallway, which they eventually won. Fortunately, they had understanding builders, Sykes of Horsforth and ABW Construction, Leeds, and while the various delays were frustrating it gave Carol and Majid extra time to consider the fit-out and to take advice from Mark Rand, who converted the water tower next to Settle railway station.

After extensive research, they opted for an air source heat pump which, combined with insulation, should make the building energy efficient. Solar gain from the floor-to-ceiling windows, which were only allowed on one elevation, should also raise the temperature inside.

The internal layout includes a ground-floor living kitchen, mezzanine sitting area with stairs to two bedrooms and a bathroom, while the fourth floor is taken up with a fabulous master suite and a spiral staircase to the converted tank. The couple are also planning to light and fit a removable glass top to a 300ft well on the ground floor.

Ryan Unsworth, of Keyland Developments, is delighted with the transformation. He says: “It is rare to see an existing structure like this with such impressive, design-led results. The retention of the water tank pays respect to the building’s former use and the success of the project is a direct result of the hard work and determination shown by Carol and Majid.”

* The water tower is the star of Channel 4’s Restoration Man on Wednesday, January 28, at 8pm

Architect and presenter George Clarke tells Carol and Majid’s story from taking possession of the derelict building and battling for a right of way to the devastating news that the metal tank on top was corroded and unstable.

The programme shows how Carol and Majid overcame the setbacks with their “can do” attitude and a determination to make the building their home no matter what.

Viewers will see that there is a happy ending in sight. The couple are now on the final phase and hope to be finished by early summer.